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What declaring Burhan Wani a 'terrorist' says about you

Violence in Kashmir has become the axis through which certain politics are created and destroyed.

 |  4-minute read |   25-07-2016
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Burhan Wani got killed.

People defied the curfew to mourn his death and many got killed, others were left seriously injured.

For the ultra Indian nationalists, this was nothing but the "politics of the Valley" where a "terrorist" was seen as an exemplary model resisting the so-called benevolence of the Indian state.

Like everyone else they have the right to interpret Burhan's ways, but the hollowness of this episode has been that Indian nationalists (including political parties and the media) have used their constitutional powers to make the Kashmiri voice sound unconstitutional.

The context in which we discuss Kashmir is such where not only the context of the conflict is fixed, but also the meanings of words like "political", "apolitical", "non-state" and "terrorism".

Some words are also made meaningless like "occupation", "state-violence", and "resistance".

Also read: I'm a Kashmiri and a 'coward'. Whom do I fight for azadi?

So the actor, the act and the politics of the action is fixed. Burhan Wani was the actor (read: terrorist), and his act was resistance (read: terrorism).

Therefore all we have is a terrorist, spreading terrorism and nothing more.

burhanfuneralbd_072516023726.jpg People defied the curfew to mourn Burhan Wani's death and many got killed.

This "nothing more" is the conscious effort to make alternative voices apolitical by depoliticising their vision and action. The result is the loaded question: what do terrorists want, and what can terrorism achieve?

Needless to say, states can never be terrorists, and imperialism or occupation is never an act of terrorism.

State politics and colonialism are then talked of as political processes to solve complex and layered historical crisis. And from this fixed premise we come to the tables to solve the problem. Welcome. 

Personally I do not support Burhan Wani nor do I see his voice as the only alternative voice. But then I have also not been treated like him by the world's largest democracy.

Also read: Why violence in Kashmir is a political choice

It is extremely convenient to declare him a terrorist as per the Constitution and his mourners as sympathisers of violence.

The problem in having him as the "terrorist" is not that he is not wrong or right, but that the terrorist is left with no political agency and cannot have a view on Kashmir, AFSPA, human rights or justice.

It is not that he does not know about these issues but that we do not want to know what he knows, and he shall not speak as he did not draw his agency from the state's authority.

His agency, in that sense, was non-state, and any political non-state agency is only seen as a manifestation of terrorism. Be it in India or Pakistan.

The question then is not whether to support him or not, but what the meaning of that support is in the first place.

The question is what makes his violence politically wrong but police's use of pellet guns as "morally wrong" but politically correct? Is there a space to make Burhan Wani's politics legitimate?

By this I mean can we see any of form of resistance (violent and non-violent) as a legitimate response to nation-state's politics? Can political agency be restored to Wani where his demands are seen within the realms of a mature democracy?

If violence was just about picking guns and shooting innocent people - then how is the police and the army any different from Burhan Wani? 

Disconnect with the Kashmiri people is not just due to not listening but because of selective politicisation and depoliticisation of their voices.

We often hear in the mainstream media discussions, please don't do "politics over Kashmir, people are suffering". This not doing politics actually means to take away the "political" from the Kashmiri people, and first make them apolitical agents, and then their grievances are depoliticised.

Hence for Indian nationalists, we have Kashmiri people as apolitical people, mourning over a depoliticised issue.

Also read: How India is censoring the Kashmir story

A good manifestation of taking away of the "political" from the Kashmiri people is when we ask stupid questions like "are you with Pakistan or with India"?

And if the answer is none, the voice is immediately considered apolitical, void of any agency, as Kashmir as a "state" is expected to draw its status either from Pakistan or India.

In this regard, Burhan Wani means the same to Pakistan as he does to India. 

This "Burhani Wani episode" will not die a natural death, but will be suppressed. The stone pelting is as political as the pellet guns.

If politics at its core means governance, then the people of Kashmir should be given an opportunity to express their "political" on what they think of the "occupation", "military" and their relation to the Indian State.

Among other reasons, the "pro-Pakistan" and the "pro-India" binary compelled Burhan Wani to be who he was.

The act of snatching away political agency helped nationalists make him a "terrorist".

Violence in Kashmir has become the axis through which certain politics are created and destroyed.

Pakistan is not concerned about the Kashmiri people, nor is India because both see Kashmir through their nationalisms.

Here, shouting azadi is heard as terrorism.

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Assembly Elections 2018

Writer

Shantanu Mehra Shantanu Mehra

The writer holds a MA degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Melbourne and is at the moment a student of anthropology at the American University of Beirut.

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